News / Europe

    Ethiopia Denies 'Hijacker' Co-pilot Faced Persecution

    Swiss authorities detained the hijacker of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that was forced to land at Geneva's international airport, Feb. 17, 2014.
    Swiss authorities detained the hijacker of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that was forced to land at Geneva's international airport, Feb. 17, 2014.
    Marthe van der Wolf
    The Ethiopian government says the co-pilot who commandeered an Ethiopian Airlines plane on Sunday was not facing persecution in his home country. 

    The 31-year-old suspect, Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn, requested asylum after taking the plane to Geneva, Switzerland. Hailemedhin is now in Swiss custody.
     
    Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein says the co-pilot's actions do not make sense, as he had no criminal record in Ethiopia.

    “As it is an Ethiopian Airlines pilot, he has several opportunities to apply for any airlines, withhold his dignity, and also he has a host of visas, including the Shengen-state visas.  So he does not have to hijack his own plane and [get] himself into hot water," Redwan said.

    The co-pilot, who had no medical record, had been working for Ethiopian Airlines for five years.  
     
    ​When the other pilot went to use the restroom on Sunday's flight, he locked the door and hijacked the plane.
     
    If tried and convicted, the co-pilot could face up to 20 years prison in Switzerland.
     
    Redwan says there is no bilateral extradition treaty between Ethiopia and Switzerland.

    “Because this criminal act is a threat posed for all international community and for all countries, the Ethiopian government would actually mull it over as to how to go about it and we will let you know which action that we are going to take," he said.

    The plane carried 193 passengers.  None of them were hurt and no violence was used during the hijacking.
     
    Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s fastest growing airline and made a profit of $143 million in its last fiscal year.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: kiya from: ethiopia
    February 23, 2014 9:03 AM
    I am sorry that the comments of some people .let s say the action that is taken by hailemrdins is very stupid and possibly dangerous .and he has seriously mentaly ill .why did they hire him in ethiopian airline? If you have evidence that will help to support your idea that shows hailemedin was certified by doctor as insane, we will accept the comment .otherwise it is difficult to belive
    In Response

    by: observer from: United States
    February 24, 2014 1:01 PM
    @bk.
    You are doing a disservice to the Pilot. In fact, it is good for the pilot if it is indeed a mental issue - that will spare him from the 20 years he is facing - and everyone will be sympathetic to him - including even the Ethiopian Government and the passengers whose lives he risked! Mental issues are difficult to spot - especially in Ethiopia where the health infrastructure is too poor to spot and treat such complex mental issues. According to the interviews from his families, he had shown signs of schizophrenia recently. I do not think anyone was aware of it!

    In a country where people with mental issues are stigmatized and considered a taboo, no one wants to admit such issues and go for treatment. This incident is a good wake up call for the airline industry at large - a major loophole in aviation safety. That routine and timely psychological examination of pilots is essential!

    If the Ethiopian government was indeed suspicious of the Pilot for politically activity, they would never have given him a responsibility this big! Besides, he could easily have left the country long time ago - as he is traveling the world! So the argument that he did it for political opposition doesn't hold water! Anyway, people who try to associate this terrible incident to politics are wayyyy too stupid - genuine idiots!!! These people are in fact discrediting the Ethiopian opposition that has legitimate grievances!!!

    by: bk from: us
    February 22, 2014 9:05 AM
    If every body c lean the waste from his premises the city will also clean ! Haile medin did effectively his task.

    by: observer from: United States
    February 21, 2014 11:02 AM
    Only insanity can explain his actions!!! Then we can forgive him, perhaps! People who try to relate this to politics are genuine idiots!!! Just imagine yourself as if you are a passenger in the plane ~ the political problems of the pilot is not your problem ~ he can ask for asylum where ever he wants! The bottom-line is ~ If you can't trust the pilot in a plane, if you cant trust the surgeon in an operational theater, then whom??? If you cant trust the cab driver when you take a taxi, or a the bus driver in a bus, then whom??? He did a huge damage to the airline!!! Politics is irrelevant ~ the guy needs treatment!!!

    by: bk from: us
    February 20, 2014 10:42 PM
    Prison is the best place of geniune person in a country where there is no good governance!!! Like hsilemedin abera we ethiopian have to give a valuable moral support for him. He is a hero

    by: TW voa from: dallas
    February 20, 2014 10:21 AM
    This was the best opportunity for the ethiopan government critics to critisize what they believe was right and all of them contradicted the hijacking with political operation in Ethiopia. After all his families made clear that the hijacker was not influenced by any political danger toward him. Now could VOA report what was The real motive for the hijacking. I suppose to wait another report for the real motive for hijacking from all news outlets including BBC, CNN, Reuters and others

    by: Alem
    February 19, 2014 9:22 AM
    First, What no one is talking about is the fact that the Captain is Italian. Ethiopian rulers seem to favor paying foreigners several fold [in dollars] over equally qualified nationals [as teachers, etc]. This has been a source of resentment to a point that many experienced technicians and pilots have left the country to work in the Middle East. You would think Emperor Haileselassie who with TWA started the national carrier 65 years ago had made sure Ethiopians are in charge of running the company and universities, etc. I would suggest you use this occasion to investigate who are in key positions at EAL, the number of pilots [co-pilots] and trainees and their ethnic affiliation.

    Second, Ethiopian rulers and their supporters are working feverishly to put a spin on the story [such as that co-pilot Hailemedhin threatened to crash the plane, etc]. Listen to spokesperson Redwan making a fool of himself sending out contradictory statements. Could it be that Hailemedhin was upset with the way the Italian pilot was treating him? Or that an Italian his boss simply because current rulers don't trust nationals [unless from their ethnic village] and are bent on quashing Ethiopian pride? Something to seriously consider.

    by: bk from: us
    February 19, 2014 5:03 AM
    This is a womderful decision l admire him b/s he has played on his own role or responsibility

    by: Sophia Adem from: TX
    February 17, 2014 5:42 PM
    We should never support this kind of behaviors he put a lot of peoples life at jeopardy. What a waste...
    In Response

    by: BB
    February 18, 2014 2:57 PM
    Agree, he should have used other methods in his intention is to protest the current state of affairs in Ethiopia.

    by: Mimi from: UK
    February 17, 2014 1:25 PM
    Brainwashed by opposition Diaspora garbage, he thought he would get political asylum and Swiss welfare $$$ for creating drama.

    He’ll get prison, then deportation!

    by: plt2 from: UK
    February 17, 2014 12:24 PM
    >>If tried and convicted, the co-pilot could face up to 20 years prison in Switzerland>>

    Why Switzerland??? Why should Swiss taxpayers have to support his incarceration? Sending him straight back to Addis Ababa.
    In Response

    by: Fight Back from: dc
    February 17, 2014 2:06 PM
    The action of the pilot must be encouraged by all ethiopias and support him with all means . because he is trying to proof the injustice of the TPLF/ Ethiopia Authority for the last 22 years. I therefore ask all TPLF opposition organizations to support any humility against ethiopian authoritarian regime
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora